The Connecticut Department of Correction plans to close Northern Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Somers, by July 1.
Gov. Ned Lamont released a statement, saying closing the facility will save the state approximately $12.6 million per year in operating costs and that the decision is “largely attributed to the significant drop in the state’s incarcerated population,” which decreased by around 3,300 over the last 10 months.
“New prison admissions in Connecticut have declined significantly over the last decade, and the incarcerated population is currently at a 32-year low. This is even as violent, high-risk inmates are serving more of their original sentences than ever before,” Lamont said in a statement. “Spending millions of dollars annually to operate facilities for a population that continues to get smaller and smaller is not a good use of resources, especially as we work to reduce the cost structure of state government. I applaud the ongoing work of all the correctional professionals at the Department of Correction, who keep our facilities safe and secure.”
The governor’s office said there are 65 people housed at Northern. At its peak, its population was 510 in 2003 and the population has not been above 100 since July 10.
The inmates will be relocated within the state’s system.
David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, released a statement, saying “Northern is a monument to cruelty and systemic racism" and a symbol of everything that is wrong with incarceration.
"Closing Northern would be a welcome, necessary, and important step toward moving Connecticut into a better future. It is critical that the state close Northern in a way that ensures it will never be opened again, and that the money saved from its closure goes toward programs and services to help people most harmed by mass incarceration. Since its founding, systemic racism means that Northern has disproportionately harmed Black and Latinx people, and the question of whether and how the state closes Northern is ultimately an issue of racial justice," McGuire said.
He said people are also still suffering in Northern today, and "we will continue to fight for people incarcerated in Northern for as long as they remain there, including in our current lawsuit on behalf of Disability Rights Connecticut.”
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About 175 people work at Northern and the governor said the closure will not result in layoffs and that the Department of Correction will work with the staff members and union representatives to employee them at other facilities in proximity to Northern and help reduce overtime costs and mitigate the need to refill upcoming retirements.
Around 9,100 people are in Connecticut prisons. The governor said this is the lowest since 1989 and the population reached its peaked in 2008 at 19,894.